Ron English

Watch here: Popping Up! on Prime Video

“Popping Up!” is a documentary portraying lowbrow, pop art and designer toy artists that are building an alternative path in art and pop culture. This diverse universe that comprises lowbrow, pop surrealism and street art is rebuilding concepts in today’s art and conquering ever more space in culture.

Filmed in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami, including the great art fair Art Basel, “Popping Up” showcases interviews and works from Ron English, Kenny Scharf, Tara McPherson and Frank Kozik, among others, as well as gallery owners Jonathan LeVine and Matt Kennedy (La Luz de Jesus).

Pop Art Today

Some call it lowbrow.  Others call it pop.  The truth is that today’s art is definitely burying prejudices, and simultaneously getting closer to the common man.  Art has never been so open.

The documentary portrays the revolution in art today through the movement which is building an alternative route to the elitist circuit of museums and galleries.  This diverse universe that comprises lowbrow, pop surrealism and street art is rebuilding concepts in today’s art and conquering ever more space in the culture of the Western world.

Through the most diverse forms such as painting, engraving, and graffiti, as well as sculpture and objects, the artists of today speak directly to the public.  Their works evoke automatic identification through an aesthetic which is less hermetic, and creates parallels that are less elitist than institutionalized art.

“Popping Up” is divided into six blocks: art hubs, inspiration, lowbrow, toy art, street art, and the market.  

The lines that divide conceptual and pop art are becoming blurred.  “Popping Up!” paints an insightful picture of the most popular art movements of the moment, proving that today’s art is integrated into everyday life and can be experienced in many types of spaces outside of museums and galleries.

Who is in “Popping Up!”?

The irreverent Frank Kozik comments on lowbrow and shows his San Francisco art studio.  Winston Smith, the name behind the well known logo of American punk band The Dead Kennedys, gives his definition of lowbrow and tells how he started working with Jello Biafra.

Ron English, Jonathan Levine, Tara McPherson and Sean Leonard talk about designer toys.  Ron and Tara explain why they believe so deeply in this medium.  Tara speaks about her earlier work as manager of a shop selling Japanese collectibles, where her passion for toy art was born.  Ron examines pop art, the concept of multiples, and remembers Keith Haring and his Pop Shop.

Sean Leonard, from the New York gallery and shop The Cotton Candy Machine, discusses the growing collector market for toy art, and how it is solidifying itself as a successful new platform alongside prints.  He emphasizes that toy art is so hot right now that people are printing toys on 3D printers.

Kenny Scharf, Elizabeth McGrath and Alex Yanes comment on the skyrocketing real estate markets in the neighborhoods traditionally inhabited by artists in New York, Los Angeles and Miami.  Laurie Lipton and Matt Kennedy speak to the growing importance of Los Angeles as a current art hub in America. Matt highlights that this should not come as a surprise to anyone, because in fact the pop art movement originated in California, and not in New York as many believe.  The groundbreaking pop art exposition that revealed the Campbell soup cans of Andy Warhol took place in Los Angeles.  

Laurie Lipton explains that after 36 years living abroad in Europe, she has returned to live in the United States, specifically in Los Angeles, where her work is most appreciated.  The city is undergoing a period of intense artistic experimentation by interesting new artists. Elizabeth McGrath, Jesse Hazelip and Laurie Lipton discuss the mental process and its inspiration on art.  On one hand Hazelip comments on his political activist motivations, while McGrath and Lipton open up about how their minds work through images.

Colin Turner, director of the San Francisco publishing house Last Gasp, which specializes in lowbrow and pop surrealism, reflects on the concept of lowbrow and how this style is surprising art curators.  Skinner, purveyor of a hardcore lowbrow style, discusses the legacy of pioneers like Robert Williams, Ray Harryhausen, and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, and how this aesthetic is today completely infiltrated into pop culture.

Jonathan Levine, one of the main players in the lowbrow and pop surrealism market, admits that he likes multiples in designer toys or other objects, but often artists put out multiple pieces that unfortunately are not up to the same level.